May 15-21 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week

September 27, 2013 Updated May 16, 2011 at 12:30 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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May 15-21 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week

September 27, 2013 Updated May 16, 2011 at 12:30 PM EDT

(United States Postal Service release) Children, the elderly and mail carriers – that is the order of “most likely to be bitten” by group type of the 4.5 million attacked annually by dogs. In 2010, more than 5700 postal employees were traumatized by dog attacks including 56 in western New York; 23 occurred in Buffalo and 12 in Rochester.

That’s why the United States Postal Service, in conjunction with health and animal organizations, is dedicating the week of May 15 to Dog Bite Prevention.

The most common occurrence of a carrier dog bite happens when a customer opens the door to retrieve their mail directly from the carrier. Securing your pet in another room or waiting until the carrier is off your property will reduce the likelihood of an incident. Inform visitors to your home about pet protocol when answering the door. And if you are pet-sitting someone else’s dog, be especially vigilant in assuring the pet does not get out and attack an unsuspecting guest.

“Dog bites continue to be a problem in our communities,” said Western New York Safety Manager Julieann Morgan. “We are working diligently to educate our employees and potential victims about how to avoid dog bites. And we are asking pet owners to be dog-diligent when it comes socializing and securing their pets around visitors.”

Dog bites are serious and have serious consequences. When necessary, carriers are instructed to suspend mail delivery if there is a dog threat. In the case of an attack, a dog owner may be liable for the victim’s injury and medical costs.

The Postal Service advises parents to protect children by talking to them about what to do when approached or approaching a dog.  And remind them to close doors and gates to keep pets secure in homes and backyards.

And for dog owners, take care of your dog and encourage old and young alike to use good safety habits around pets. Here’s more advice:

How to Avoid Being Bitten

  • Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.
  • If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
  • Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.
  • While letter carriers are discouraged from petting animals, people who choose to pet dogs should always let a dog see and sniff them before petting the animal.
  • If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.

How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

  • Obedience training can teach dogs’ proper behavior and help owners control their dogs.
  • When a carrier comes to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door in another room.
  • Don’t let your child take mail from the carrier in the presence of your dog. Your dog’s instinct is to protect the family.
  • Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to bite.
  • Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time, frequently turn into biters.